The Entertainment House
That pitiful steward was currently helplessly waiting to be called in, and once he heard, he hurriedly came over.
When he entered the room, he first knelt down and constantly kowtowed, putting forth a clear look of knowing his mistakes and changing, making He Xuan not in a good position to say anything more.
He could only ask with a deep voice, carrying a slight coldness in his tone, “Where is charcoal in the ducal residence All in your stomachs”
“I don’t dare, I don’t dare, the servants have already prepared it, we were originally preparing to wait for a while before sending it over to the duke.”
“Then you’re saying that Ig came too early”
“No no no, it’s this servant’s fault, it’s this servant’s fault.”
He Xuan pinched his eyebrows.
Looks like this ducal residence’s steward was an oily character, and for the time being, couldn’t find any reason to get angry at- this was not his own residence after all.
In the first time he met with this little emperor, he did not put his reputation down in front of outsiders.
He then waved his hands to have him withdraw, and also had someone bring some good silver-threaded charcoal over.
“I have made your Highness laugh.” Xiao Zuo squeezed out a panicked smile, and only felt that bit of pride he arduously acted out already vanished in front of He Xuan’s cold and stern gaze.
He did not know where to put his hands at the moment, awkwardly leaning by the table.
He Xuan looked at him from the side of his eyes.
Xiao Zuo’s eyes that were dyed in some alarm uneasily looked at the floorboards at this time, while the tip of the nose was slightly red, like a shocked wild rabbit he would encounter when he went hunting.
“You’re afraid of me” He Xuan was half a head taller than Xiao Zuo, so when he leaned down from up top, Xiao Zuo felt like it was as if he had sunk into a deep and dark sea, surging with dangerous currents all around.
A few of He Xuan’s hairs hung down, and passed by Xiao Zuo’s cheeks, while the ambergris scent naturally carried a dominance and might, firmly confining Xiao Zuo into place.
Xiao Zuo arduously lifted his head up, and like he was to conceal his own thunderous heartbeat, he tried his best to calmly say, “No.”
Xiao Zuo lightly laughed.
His facial features were all deep, and he originally had a good face that filled the carriage with fruits, yet always bore an unshakable ruthlessness, making people stop in their steps and not daring to come close.
At this time, He Xuan reached out with a bit of ridicule, and seemingly intimately lifted up Xiao Zuo’s fair and tender chin, and bent down at Xiao Zuo’s ears and use a breathy voice to speak.
“That would be for the best.”
Xiao Zuo could feel He Xuan’s damp and warm breath burning the back of his neck.
He tightly bit down, and used all his might to hold back the desire to wave his hand to punch and break the tall and lifted nose on the person in front of him.
He Xuan’s gaze seemed like the velvety venomous snake found everywhere in the swamps, letting out a blood-soaked hiss, patiently swallowing the prey it locked on into its stomach.
After sending He Xuan off with hardship, Xiao Zuo closed the doors, and like he was wrenched of all the strength in his body, he buried his head into the silk blankets and took a deep breath in.
“Duke, Duke……” It was Qing Xing’s voice.
Qing Xing held a basin of water, and gently said, “Duke, please wipe your face.”
It might be his own misconception, but Xiao Zuo felt that the faint Nan Liang dialect in Qing Xing’s speech got a bit heavier, drawing in his nose into an aching pain again.
He hurriedly borrowed the washing of the face to cover his heavy nasal tone.
The temperature of the water was just right, the warm cloth covered over the face, and with the toiling from the consecutive days of travel, caution, and anxiety, Xiao Zuo finally found a long-met sliver of content tonight.
He let out a long breath, and the relaxed features were all indistinct and shadowy in the candlelight, “You should go back now, I can sleep on my own in a while.”
“Alright, if there is anything, please call for this servant.” Qing Xing wrung the cloth dry and shook it, then put it back on the wooden rack, brought the wooden basin out, and closed the doors.
Xiao Zuo dragged his feet off to blow out the wax candle, then curled into a ball, and wrapped himself in the blankets.
The winds outside the window clashed onto the window sill with a shrill tone.
Xiao Zuo already did not get proper sleep for several days, and at this time with a place to sleep properly on a rare occasion, he instead turned and flipped over, and found it hard to get to sleep.
Each time he closed his eyes, he would see those Nan Liang soldiers with faces full of blood dragging their incomplete bodies and opening their bloodstained and vacant eyes, see those civilians who lost their homes due to war falling over each other while grabbing onto white clay to eat from the ground, see the main general who taught him to fight when he was young, with his body pierced with countless arrows, still opening his eyes wide not willing to fall down……
The charcoal fire made a few sputtering sounds, and Xiao Zuo finally hazily slept off.
“Your Majesty! This commoner only has this one son, don’t let him go off to die!” An old woman with ragged clothes knelt down, holding onto the corners of his clothes with tears all over her wrinkle-filled face, “He is only fifteen, fifteen, your Majesty!”
He watched himself coldly shake his head, and a few soldiers then brought his son over from the field ridges.
Today was the day to plant the rice seedlings.
That half-tall youth had muddy pant legs rolled up, wore a pair of bigger hay shoes, with his hair all shaggy, shockingly and angrily staring at him.
“I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go! I need to take care of Mother!” That youth was stubborn, and did not wish to go into the army.
A soldier to the side got into a rage, and pulled out the longsword on the waist and pierced down, then that youth’s body instantly fell, and blood mixed with intestines flowed all over.
“The muddled king murdered me, the muddled king murdered me!” That old woman ruthlessly looked at him with completely reddened eyes, and smashed her head into the wall, and very soon breathed her last.
The soldiers beside him at this time all had reddened eyes, and turned their heads and stared at him, with their mouths all orderly reciting, “The muddled king murdered me, the muddled king murdered me……” Xiao Zuo froze, staggered back one step, but where was there a room to his back- it was clearly a giant abyss, opening its pitch-black bloody mouth, calmly waiting for him to fall in on his own.
“It was Iz who have wronged you all, it was Iz who wronged Liang!” Xiao Zuo suddenly opened his eyes.
The window faintly seeped with daylight, and in his eyes were the bed curtains embroidered with lotuses, with the entire pillow dampened with his cold sweat.
He took in crude breaths, and did not wake up from this strange nightmare immediately.
After sitting there in a daze for a while, he then heard Qing Xing knocking the door.
“Duke, this servant is here to help you wash up.”
“Come in.” Xiao Zuo wiped the sweat on his forehead, then flipped open the blanket and got out of bed.
Qing Xing seemed to have dressed up today, and especially brushed with a lively spirit snake hairstyle.
The hair was put in with a hairpin engraved with the shape of a butterfly, and the forehead even cleverly stuck with three flower petals, making the originally delicate features even prettier.
When Xiao Zuo was washing his face, he saw it, then smiled and jokingly said, “Is it some good day today, for Qing Xing to dress so prettily”
“Please do not make fun of Qing Xing, Duke.” Qing Xing’s face went slightly red, bashfully stamped her feet, took back the face-washing cloth, then spoke up again, “Breakfast has already been prepared, would the duke like to eat here, or go to the hall to eat”
When Xiao Zuo just gets up from bed, he would always be a bit sluggish.
In the past when he was in Nan Liang’s palace, he would need the maids to bring the food to the bed, and each time there were remarks made on his daily life, those censor officials’ persuasions wouldn’t even be finished even after a few days.
“Send it in.”
Qing Xing nodded her head, and very quickly brought breakfast over.
It was a bowl of porridge, a meat-filled bun, and a few gourds and vegetables.
Xiao Zuo did not sleep well last night, and did not have much of an appetite in the morning.
After randomly having some, he turned full, and as he was about to wave his hand to have Qing Xing bring it away, he heard her say, “Does it not suit Duke’s tastes”
“No, I’m just not hungry, I will have some more for lunch.”
Qing Xing then got up to clean away the bowl and chopsticks.
Before leaving, she paused, and slightly curiously asked, “Duke, I hear that there would be a hundred and eight dishes for breakfast in the palace, is this true”
A monarch of a fallen country originally should keep to themselves and talk less about the former position and the throne and all sorts, yet at this time, faced with Qing Xing’s slightly wide eyes and young and ignorant appearance, Xiao Zuo’s heart went soft for once and answered, “According to proper order, it will be like this, but other than the new year events, normally, they wouldn’t put that many.
Six, seven kinds will be enough.”
“So it’s like that.” Qing Xing nodded her head, then spoke up again, “Does the duke have something to do for today”
“Mm, help me call the steward over, I have something to ask him.”
In the end, he was concerned about De Qing and Zi Wan.
One extra day he left them in the prison camp would be one extra day of trouble, making it hard to avoid the nights being long and dreams being many.
“Do you know where the other people from Nan Liang have been arranged at”
The butler hummed a bit, then said, “The women have been made government prostitutes, the men have been sent……”
“This quick” Xiao Zuo froze, interrupted him with knitted eyebrows, then asked again, “Do you know which street they’ve been sent to”
“This…… there are many streets in the capital, I do not know.”
That eunuch the day before said they could have them sent over, and to wait for him for a bit.
Xiao Zuo held in this thought, and restrained the anxiety inside for now.
He waited for a day in the residence, up until the sun set to the western mountains, yet there was still no message.
“Duke, this is the ninth jar of wine you’ve drunk, you cannot drink anymore.” Qing Xing held up an empty wine jar, standing to one side knitting her eyebrows.
Xiao Zuo completely smelled of wine, reclined on the chair, and drunkenly waved his hands, speaking in complete irritation “If I say you pour, you pour, don’t get distracted.”
“Duke! You really cannot drink anymore, you’re drunk already……”
Xiao Zuo heard Nan Liang’s soft language in his ear, and hazily lifted his head up, then lightly said, “Zi Wan, it was Iz who wronged you……” Qing Xing originally thought he wanted to say something, got close, and hazily heard a zhen, and abruptly got so scared she took a step back.
The wine jar in her hands dropped to the floor with chaotic pinging and ponging.
Xiao Zuo got wakened by these sounds, and rubbed his eyes to ask, “Still no news yet”
Qing Xing’s hands were still shaking.
She used strength to rub the shaking hands, and took one deep breath in and said, “No, Duke, let’s ask tomorrow morning.”
“We cannot, I cannot wait any longer.
Help me up, I’m going to the Ministry of Penalty right now to ask……”
Xiao Zuo struggled for a long time, and was driven back by Qing Xing’s one line, “Duke, at this time, the sirs from the Ministry of Penalty are all gone.
Let’s go tomorrow, please do not make things hard for this servant anymore……”
Xiao Zuo dejectedly opened his mouth, but in the end, did not insist on it anymore.
“Never mind, help tend to my washing.”
In the end, it got pushed to the next day, and early in the morning, Xiao Zuo blocked the doors to the Ministry of Penalty right on the dot.
“Nan Hun Duke, what business do you have here” The official who received him had a tender face and looked to have entered not long ago.
Xiao Zuo spoke, “I had a maid and an eunuch who came into Jin along with me from Nan Liang, do you know where they are now”
Probably because they certainly just entered the official circle not long ago, and did not yet learn how to put on appearances, that young official answered, “Aye, Duke, you have come too late.
That bunch from Nan Liang have been transported already, I did not hear anything about leaving anyone.”
After finishing, Xiao Zuo immediately stood up, and almost toppled the cup on the tea table.
He bit down his lower lip, and regretfully asked, “Do you know where they have been sent to”
“The Third Entertainment House to the city’s east is typically where the government prostitutes go.
As for the eunuch you spoke of, probably still locked in jail.
If you have a decree, I can allow you to see them.”
 adjective for those who are cunning and sly.
 龍涎香- literally, dragon’s saliva.
I suppose having a dragon in the name makes it royal.
 擲果盈車- there are several iterations of this expression, but it all boils down to, the man sitting in the carriage looks so handsome the women throw so much fruit into the carriage it fills it.
Loved by the women.